Happy 2nd Birthday Little Moore!

Today we are celebrating Little Moore’s 2nd birthday. My goodness, how time has flown!

I know it’s the cliche thing to say but I just don’t know where the time has gone. It’s crazy to look at my little boy now, toddling around and having conversations with me when not so long ago he was just this tiny thing that could only cry.

He’s developed over the last year. Definitely in the tooth department – this time last year he was still toothless, now he has 12 – still a long way to go but we’re getting there!

 He’s really confident on his feet now and his language skills are really well developed. Some of my favourite things he says:

‘See you soon’ (in a Sean Connery style ‘Shee you shoon’)

‘Oh no, Mama, baby’ (when I’m hurt)

‘One more Sam please’ (when he wants to watch more Fireman Sam)

He loves singing too, and joins along as we do Wheels on the Bus, or does all the noises for Old Macdonald.

He loves pulling faces and making us all laugh.

He’s still obsessed with cars and we have way too many hiding in all sorts of places around the house (including a ride in Jaguar). He also has a dolls house, where he likes to push the Mummy and Daddy dolls down the stairs.

We have lots of lovely days out planned to celebrate this week and I’m looking forward to spending a week as a family 🙂

Book Review: Brightstorm (Vashti Hardy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 352

Release Date: March 1st 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died! The twins don’t believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation. As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew. But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek?

Review:

This was a fantastic middle-grade story, jam-packed full of action and adventure, family and friends and flying machines!

When Arthur and Maudie’s father is reported dead on a mission, after supposedly stealing fuel from another explorer, they set out to complete his mission and clear his name.

I loved the pace of this story. So much happened in such a short space of time: it moved quickly from one thing to the next, not lingering too long on anything so even the sad moments aren’t sad for too long.

There’s a great host of characters, not least of which are the twins. Arthur is desperate to prove he is useful on the ship, despite having only one arm, and to clear his father’s name, so much so that he sometimes doesn’t think before he acts. I loved how smart and practical Maudie was, and how supportive she was of her brother.Their captain, Harriet Culpepper, is an amazing leader, and there’s a villain that’ll make your toes curl too.

I also want to shout out to the amazing cover – it’s so beautiful I could stare at it all day. I’m sure a lot of people will pick it up off the shelves based on its looks alone, and they won’t be disappointed by what’s inside!

This is such a fun book with a host of quirky characters and non-stop action and adventure from start to finish. Get this for the young readers in your life and let them join Arthur and Maudie on the adventure of a lifetime!

4

Book Review: Secrets of a Teenage Heiress (Katy Birchall)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Flick’s family have owned The Royale – one of London’s most prestigious hotels – for generations. But Flick isn’t that interested. She is interested in the newest guest – superstar celebrity Skylar Chase, and Sky’s mega-famous group of friends, including dreamy YouTube star, Ethan Duke. But just as Flick gets the chance to join their glittering squad, she gets grounded following an unfortunate incident involving a prince, a wardrobe and a selfie stick (it could have happened to anyone!). With only her Instagram star pet dachshund, Fritz, for company, will Flick find a way to escape The Royale and join the fame game?

Review:

Flick lives in Hotel Royale, London’s most prestigious hotel, and where pop sensation Skylar Chase is staying. Against the odds, Flick gets the chance to hang out with Skylar and her celebrity friends, just as she gets grounded.

I was craving an easy and fun read and I knew this wouldn’t let me down. Like Katy Birchall’s It Girl series, this was funny and happy and packed full of jokes and fun friendships.

I wasn’t too keen on Flick at first. She’s a bit spoilt and entitled and bratty and some of the things she said really annoyed me, especially the way she treated some of the hotel workers: I’ve been in that kind of job and I would not have liked a girl like her! Luckily she grows throughout the book and comes to realise how much work goes into running the hotel.

Flick really came into her own at the end when she put together a special event for Skylar, organising the whole thing and using her newfound knowledge of the hotel and staff to make things run smoothly. It really showed how much she’d changed and grown.

I really liked Cal and his relationship with Flick, even if she did mistreat him a lot. He felt real, while Flick often had her head in the clouds. Grace was another wonderful character, a true friend to Flick when she needed it and just a good laugh overall. Also loved the little mentions of Anna and her family from the IT Girl series!

This was a really fun read with a lot of character growth and I’m interested to see where Flick will go next. I passed the book on to my eleven-year-old cousin, who read it in two days and loved it. This is a perfect fun read for young teens.

4

Book Review: In Real Life (Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Square Fish

Pages: 175

Release Date: February 13th 2018

Summary:

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

Review:

This is an interesting short read with gorgeous art and a well-intentioned message – I just think it tried to cover too much in a short space.

After a school visit from one of the organisers of Coarsegold Online, Anda starts playing the game with a group of female gamers. I enjoyed this aspect of the story: it touched on sexism and misogyny in gaming and Coarsegold offered a safe and welcoming space for female gamers. This was really interesting and was great for Anda’s character development.

We then get to the point of the story: Anda meets Raymond, a gold farmer in the game, who’s an overworked teenager in China in real life. Gold farmers in games are often from third world countries and they collect in-game items and valuable objects to sell to other players for real life money. Anda’s friends in the game point out how that’s not in the spirit of the game and they start targeting groups of gold farmers. However, when Anda speaks Raymond, she sees the terrible predicament he’s in: he needs this job to survive, not in the game but in real life.

Anda then decides she has to help him in some way. She tells Raymond that he and his friends should demand healthcare from their employer, which of course leads to him getting fired. Anda spreads a message among the other gold farmers to try and find Raymond, who turns up at the end and says he’s got a better a job now. And that’s basically it.

Everything felt a bit simplified when this is a complex issue. While I know there were good intentions there, I just don’t think it all came across well. Anda’s help came across more as some kind of white saviour complex and it only made matters worse for Raymond: nothing she did really helped him, though I see how she was changed for the better by meeting him and gaining some understanding of another country and culture.

On the plus side, there was a positive message about female gaming and feeling comfortable with yourself, and the art by Jen Wang is just fantastic. I think this book was too short to really explore all the issues it wanted to and it just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker (Jen Wang)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: First Second

Pages: 288

Release Date: February 13th 2018

Summary:

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Review:

This was a really lovely, modern fairy tale with beautiful art and a great message about being yourself and accepting others.

Sebastian is a prince by day and Lady Crystallia by night. Frances is his new dressmaker who longs for her talent to be recognised, but this can’t happen while Sebastian’s passion for dresses stays secret.

This was a really cute story with important undertones. I loved the fun the two had designing dresses together, going to parties and just generally bonding. It was great to see a story that breaks gender norms and shows another side of life. In this book, clothes don’t have a gender, dresses aren’t just for girls and society has to learn to accept that. Sebastian loves getting dressed up and that’s all there is to it: no big deal.

The friendship that bloomed between Sebastian and Frances was really sweet and it was great to see their relationship grow and strain under the weight of their secrets. By the end of the book, you’re hoping they’ll sort out their differences and get together, and that society/Sebastian’s father will get over any issues they have with a prince wearing dresses.

The artwork is really stunning and I loved seeing Frances’ new creations and Sebastian transform as he wore them. The colour scheme is really beautiful and the character’s faces are so expressive you always know exactly what they’re thinking.

This a beautiful book with a fun story and great message that I hope a lot of people will read.

4

Book Review: Purple Hearts (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 480

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s 1944, and it feels to everyone like the war will never end. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr and Rainiy Shulterman have all received accolades, been ‘heroes’, earned promotion – in short, they’ve all done ‘enough’ to allow them to leave this nightmare and go home. But they don’t.

D-Day, June 6th 1944. On that day, many still doubted the American soldier.

By June 7th no one did.

Review:

It doesn’t feel like long ago that I was first introduced to this series, and now I’ve read the final one. It’s been emotional!

Rainy, Rio and Frangie are all decorated war heroes now, but their battle is still raging on. Rainy is keen to see the war to an end after her torture in Italy, Rio is good at being a soldier and doesn’t know what she’d do if she went home, and Frangie wants to keep healing and helping her fellow soldiers.

All three girls are unrecognisable from the ones we started with, and I love that. Something like this really affects you as a person and it’s interesting to see how it’s affected each girl differently. To me, Rio changes the most: in this book she is so far from the sweet girl who left to fight a war that it starts to affect her realtionships. The tensions between her and Strand that started in the last book are ever present it was fascinating to see how that went down.

Frangie’s parts were the ones where I really felt the horror of the war. The things she treated, the wounds she saw, it all hammered home how truly horrific war is. She had another tough time in this book, with a moment that brought tears to my eyes.

Rainy’s position as a Jew in Nazi-occupied lands is really interesting, especially as she starts to embrace her heritage more. As the war comes to a close and the awful concentration camps are revealed, you can really feel the personal connection Rainy has to them and how awful it is to see her people persecuted like that. It’s even more terrible reading some of the events and knowing how true to real life they are.

On a lighter note, we finally have the mysterious narrator revealed! This was a big moment for me, and it didn’t disappoint. There a few hints throughout which I picked up on so it wasn’t a complete surprise, but it felt very fitting.

I liked that the book didn’t just end when the war did, and we got to see a bit of the character’s lives afterward. There’s a great bit at the end with obituaries for the soldiers who die later of old age, so we get a little snippet of what they did after the war.

I’ve really loved this series and I’m sad it’s ended now. It’s such a simple idea, wondering what would happen if women fought in WWII, but it’s made for an exciting and fascinating trilogy which I’d really recommend you read.

4

Book Review: Goodbye, Perfect (Sara Barnard)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I? 

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

Review:

I do love Sara Barnard’s ability to create complex, compelling and realistic characters. She really is the queen of contemporary YA right now! I’ve loved her previous books and this one was no exception!

When Eden’s steady, dependable best friend Bonnie runs away with a teacher, Eden is left to pick up the pieces. Secretly in touch with Bonnie, Eden has to decide whether her friend really is as happy as she says she is, or if she should tell the police where the runaways are hiding.

This was such a fascinating read and I loved that it was from Eden’s point of view rather than Bonnie’s. If it had been Bonnie’s, it would have been similar to Me & Mr. J, which is a fantastic book but I don’t want to read a rehashing of that. Having it as Eden’s point of view gave a whole different message and feeling.

Bonnie drove me nuts in this. I definitely have a different perspective on this, being an adult rather than a teen, but I just thought what she did was really selfish. I’m not exactly blaming her, as she was obviously groomed by her teacher, but I felt it was really unfair to put pressure on Eden to keep her whereabouts a secret. While I understood Eden’s need to be loyal to Bonnie, I did want to scream at her that she wasn’t helping by keeping her secret.

I love that this is another book that focuses on family and friendship rather than teen romance. Sure, Eden has a boyfriend and they have some great moments together, but it isn’t about them. It’s refreshing to see a YA book where someone’s in a stable relationship and nothing goes wrong! I felt the book tried to steer clear of the usual tropes like this: it was also great to see sisters who are adopted and happy in their adoptive family.

My favourite parts were the ones with Valerie, Eden’s adoptive older sister who she’s struggled to bond with. While we see Valerie through Eden’s eyes – smart, perfect, dull – it’s easy to see why they haven’t got on, but as the book goes on it’s clear there’s more to Valerie than Eden’s first assessment. I loved their arguments as well as their bonding and I think Valerie was just an overall amazing character to read.

This is a powerful, emotional read which tackles some difficult topics really well. I thought it got the message right while being true to the teenage characters and not be being patronising. It’s another hit from Sara Barnard and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

4